My Garden is a Death Trap for Plants! Disease?
I have a chronic and increasingly worse problem growing things in my vegetable garden. They wilt and die and it does not seem to be related to nutrients, water, light or insects. I�d appreciate any advice on how to identify and treat it.
I apologize for the long post but I am trying to include as many pertinent facts as possible.
Tomatoes and peppers grow slowly and are sickly looking � worse over the last several seasons.
Rhubarb (which grows well in our area) wilts and dies, first in hotter weather, but this spring, they declined almost as soon as we set out new plants. Other plants from the same batch planted at our other rural property (in much poorer soil) are thriving. A remaining established rhubarb looks like it is dying after a lackluster spring performance.
Basil plants never make it through the summer. They might grow to pretty good size, but one branch at a time will wilt and die and an entire plant can be lost in a couple weeks.
Similar symptoms on cukes/melons etc. but we also have cuke beetles, vine borers and squash bugs so who knows. I pretty much gave up trying to grow curcurbits a few years back.
The most shocking item is that our 15-yr old Concord grape next to the garden, which has produced well for years, sprouted, looked sickly, and is now dead, every leaf.
Location central MO, house built in 1989, former farm field, cut down several feet into clay soil, approx. 4-6" heavy clay topsoil replaced.
Beginning in �91 we tilled in organic matter steadily: homemade compost, bags of topsoil, compost, even a little sand and sandbags leftover from floods. I have used a small amount of City yard waste compost, and one or two loads of manure several years back.
I tested the soil this spring since it had not been done in about 15 yrs. Shows high in everything, 9.6% organic matter, excessive K so we planned to only use N fert when the plants seemed to need it. I did not have N tested but it is probably high given the other results. Unless high nutrients can kill your garden, I doubt the soil is the problem.
This is not weather related since we have had a variety over the last several years � cold and hot, wet and dry.
Stopped walking on it a few years back and created 4x10 raised beds. Now about 4-6" above the surroundings. Paths are mulched with sawdust, wood chips etc.
Over the years we used in the yard many many loads of free City yard waste mulch. None of this directly on the garden beds but some has been used in the paths. I suspect a lot of crap (diseased plants etc.) gets dumped at the mulch sites and although the mulch piles heat up, the stuff does not fully compost.
I have not made a very big effort to keep dead tomato plants, etc. out of my compost so I am recycling everything.
I have tried mulching my tomatoes as soon as planted but they always get blight from the bottom. But they used to produce anyway, and the last couple of years they just don�t grow fast enough to stay ahead of the blight.
Trees have grown up somewhat but we�re still getting a few hours of midday sun and some late afternoon sun before sunset. I don�t think it�s a sun problem although more would be better. We have some tree roots getting in (mostly silver maple) but I dig each bed every couple years to cut them out. No allelopathic trees around, only oak, maple, cottonwood and Bradford pear within 100 ft.
I tried solarizing a couple of beds two years ago, cleared in the spring, wet down, covered with clear plastic for 6 weeks. I planted fall crops after that. Didn�t seem to make much difference.
Do I have a massive infection with verticillium wilt or something? What should I do? I have the best soil on the block but I can't grow anything in it.